The first hip hop act to ever perform on ‘Saturday Night Live’
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The first hip hop act to ever perform on 'Saturday Night Live'

It is fair to say that hip hop in the 1970s was not what it is today. Before live shows were being performed by artists at the age of 16 and before a rapper could just upload and share their videos globally within seconds, hip hop culture, and especially rap, was effectively a non-factor in music.

Although hip hop is, of course, different now, it is always important for fans and creators of the genre alike to remember the people and places that helped create the art form.

Hip hop was born in the 1970s in New York. Three is the magic number, and the invention of the rebllious culture is mainly credited to three individuals along with their affiliates. Those three people are DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore.

Kool Herc is credited with introducing what he calls ‘The Merry-Go-Round Technique’ to African-American DJs to create an extended break. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five are credited with introducing MCing over the extended breaks, and Grand Wizard Theodore is credited with popularising the scratch technique to add excitement and vigour to records. 

Since the ’70s, hip hop has continued to evolve and grow ever more popular, becoming internationally one of the world’s most popular genres of music. With artists such as Kanye West and Jay-Z now achieving billionaire status off the back of this worldwide genre — hip hop is a multi-billion dollar industry that generates wealth for millions.

However, there was once a time when rappers couldn’t even get live club performances, let alone get televised ones. However, that all changed in 1981 when one legendary rap group managed to do the impossible and bag a primetime live TV performance. This group was Funky 4+1.

Comprised Keith Keith, DJ Breakout, Jazzy Jeff, Rahiem and MC Sha-Rock. Funky 4+1 appeared on Saturday Night Live (SNL) for their Valentine’s Day special. Hosted by Deborah Harry of Blondie, who gave a live performance herself that night covering Teddy Pendergrass and Devo, Funky 4+1 were brought on to perform ‘That’s the Joint.’

In an interview with American music magazine Wax Poetics, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein told the publication, “They let us pick a musical guest to be on with us. The people on the show were so nervous about them doing it. I remember trying to explain to them how scratching worked. Trying to verbalize what that is for someone who has no idea, is really difficult.”

Luckily the team at SNL had faith in Stein’s judgement and allowed Funky 4+1 to perform on the show, making them the first hip hop act to ever perform on the primetime television show. You can hear the track the group performed in the video below.